We find plenty to enjoy about this great community. Anna Maria Island, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, Parrish, Palmetto and everywhere else in Manatee County, where else in the Sunshine State would you find such a diverse and unique place to live, work and play -- from grand Old Florida to sparkling New Florida?
Here's three reasons why Manatee County can count its lucky stars:
Old becomes new
Thank goodness the Rod & Reel Pier and Restaurant is back in business. This historic landmark in Anna Maria -- about a century old -- has been closed way too long since an electrical fire burned up part of the place on Sept. 30.
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We appreciate the fact that the upgrades improve more than the fire required, and the owners took the time and expense to do this right. Patrons are already enjoying the "funky" vibe that the old place held dear for many of us.
Big kicks with pros
Manatee County's sports industry continues to be a juggernaut. With the past week's great presence by Major League Soccer at IMG Academy, wow, fans got to witness not only top professionals on the field but out on Anna Maria Island, in downtown Bradenton and elsewhere.
Players sent out social network messages on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook that in effect extolled our community.
How great. More than that, though, having top soccer pros mixing with Manatee County residents is a wonderful way to boost the sport.
And we hope MLS returns by making Bradenton an annual preseason destination, as is hoped.
Drop the misnomer insult
Bradentucky? Really? Let's bury that misnomer, a disparaging insult to both Bradenton and Kentucky. The Bluegrass State is both beautiful and bountiful, just like Manatee County.
This wrongheaded nickname came up again at a Congress of New Urbanism Florida Summit at New College of Florida last week as several Bradenton civic leaders pointed out vital facts. One of the most significant:
Riverwalk, downtown Bradenton's $6.2 million sterling new asset, attracted more than 400,000 people in its first year -- quite an improvement over the 15,000 from the previous estimate by police in which half were described as homeless. This tremendous change in the city's image -- as well as other improvements -- should quiet any mention of "Bradentucky." (To be clear, we do like our Bradentucky Bombers women's roller derby team, the name notwithstanding.)